Thunder Is Afraid of You

Dear Xander,

The recent spate of heavy lightning storms – in particular, the sound of thunder – had you spooked.

Uncle Mark’s sister, Felicia, tried to explain to you that thunder occurs because “the clouds in the sky are having a traffic jam”, and the rain banging into each other makes a fair bit of noise. I added that the motor insurance agents also add to the noise as a result.

We understand that at your age, your sense of hearing may be a lot more sensitive than us old fogies, and the low rumblings of nature clearing its bladder may be playing on your sense of securities.

Nonetheless, it became an opportunity for your parents to learn about raising your confidence.

One Saturday afternoon, in calmer weather, I taught you what you should do when you hear thunder.

Me: Are you scared of thunder?
You: Yes.
Do you know what you should do so you are not scared of thunder? Everytime you hear the thunder, you must raise your finger to the sky and say “Thunder! I am not afraid of you!” Then the thunder will go away.
You: Okay.
Me: Okay, try it. Say it.
You: Thunder. I not afray o’ you.
Me: With conviction!
You: (raises finger to the sky, with a smile) Thunder! I am NOT AFRAID OF YOU!”

The following Sunday afternoon, the skies grew heavy and as we were headed out to dinner, it started to pour. Your mother and I started to get worried as we made our way to the car, but surprisingly, as you walked a few steps ahead of me, you turned and flashed us a smile, saying, “I not afraid of the thunder now.”

These are the moments that make me proud to be your father.



Everybody is Kung Fu Fightin’ (Update: Except My Son)

Update: Project “Donnie Yen” didn’t pan out for Xander.

To be fair, Sinowushu is a very disciplined school; their Tanjong Katong training centre is also very fittingly set in an assembly hall in the midst of the former TKGS buildings. They regularly churn out national champions in the competitive sport, and their students thoroughly impressed my wife and I. However, the biggest problem Xander had was his age; discipline requires a lot of instruction, and we felt Xander wouldn’t be able to handle such an environment this early in his mental development.


He also didn’t understand why everybody wasn’t smiling (though a few curious boys did come up close to him mid-kick exercises and wonder why he wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the whole thing). His first reaction was to say that this was a dangerous environment, and refused to join in for a trial class.


The quest will continue as he gets older; for now, my wife is looking to groom Xander into a K-pop star, so we’re switching tactics and hunting for a hip-hop dance class for 3-year-olds now.

Dear Xander,

Not too long ago, a friend of your dad’s was telling me about an overseas experience he had in a certain Western country. He was waiting outside a convenience store for a Caucasian friend of his who had walked in to get some snacks. As the friend came out, he was confronted by a small group of Caucasian roughnecks who started to harass him. Your dad’s friend, sensing something was wrong, walked up to see what was going on.

Here’s the twist: the Caucasian roughnecks saw my friend walking up to defend his friend, and suddenly stopped. Amidst the whispering, your dad’s friend could hear one of them say, “Yo dude, check it, he’s Chinese.” To which another roughneck suddenly raised his hands and said, “Yo, we don’t want no trouble. We’re sorry, man. We’re sorry.”

My friend later found out his friend heard another part of the conversation by one of the roughnecks which went, “Yo man. All them Chinese know
Kung Fu.”

Which is why we’re signing you up for wushu classes this week.




What Society Wants (Updated)

Update 1: I received a text from my wife, having enquired with the teacher about the assessment book. The text reads:

“Teacher say no need to filll in. Read can ler.”

“The written work is for K1.”


The anxiety continues…

Update 2: We’ve pretty much pinned down the issue to a communication breakdown with the school (which, unfortunately, is quite common with this school). I guess this will serve as more conversation fodder at our next parent-teacher meeting.

Dear Xander,

We found out that your school was putting textbooks and assessment books into your school bag for us parents to guide you through your homework. Over the weekend, your mother decided to give it a go with you.

Homework for a 3-year-old. Wait, it gets much worse.

After a failed attempt at getting you to take a nap at 4pm on a Sunday, your mother then proceeded to dig out all your school material and started flipping through your school material, consisting of 2 Chinese textbooks, a Chinese workbook, asp spoken word audio CD accompanying the workbook (in the voice of your school principal and her daughter, no less) and what I can only assume is a parent’s/teacher’s instruction manual of how to go through the lessons.

The workbook was what started the evening’s disaster. It was a book of Chinese idioms, with one page listing 8 idioms, and the flipside of the page with the same idioms but with words missing for you to fill in the blanks. Never mind that your mother and I didn’t know the meaning of half the idioms listed, even though the audio CD took care of the reading for us. As time wore on, your mother got increasingly frustrated when she realised you weren’t recognising and reading the words in the textbook; you were reciting from memory the contents of the audio CD that must have been played and replayed over during your classes.

Your mother tried getting you to write the Chinese characters on a blank piece of paper, without much success. Sensing something was up, she asked you to write your name in English; you went as far as X and A before finally exhibiting what you were only capable of writing at 39 months of age – crooked lines. Your mother started wondering what you’ve been taught in school since you enrolled back when you were 18 months old. Then she started getting angry, then anxious, then worried.

She started to cry.

You realised what was happening, and went up to hug her. you took some tissue nearby to wipe off your mother’s tears, and then started stroking your mother as you would always do whenever you think she’s sad. You started crying as well, and in between breaths, you said to your mother, “Mummy, don’t cry.” confused and not knowing what else to say, your mother replied, “But you’re not writing your words.” And then she cried even harder.

In a bid to soothe your mother’s emotions, you immediately reached out for the workbook, picked up your pencil, and filled in every blank on the page. The result of your tense, urgent need to finish your homework under pressure was this:

I had gone out to get dinner for the family during the entire time. When I reached home, I saw your teary-eyed mother on the sofa looking defeated, and you sitting next to her, watching television. She told me what happened, and I, too, started wondering what the school was trying to achieve, and how they were expecting you to deal with such an advanced level of learning.

Later in the night, I read about children’s milestones between 36-48 months whilst perusing through the Internet. Most of the web articles I read seem to hold the same agreement: that children will only start learning to write at 5 years of age. Your father then understood why many of his friends decided to migrate with their children.

I didn’t intend to write a follow up to my last letter to you, but as a relatively new parent, the overly advanced, competitive nature of the local education system has only now begun to slap me – and your mother – in the face. I always wondered why I never felt I had an enjoyable childhood; and if it was a lot simpler back then, I dread to wonder what the future holds for you here.

What our society expects from its children quite honestly does not sit very well with me.



What Your Parents Want

Dear Xander,

The past few weeks have your parents a little distressed. Your English teacher in your nursery class has been dropping notes to us in your daily assignments, telling us you really need help in your writing. In nursery school terms, of course the teacher means writing the alphabet, not a research paper on understanding the reproductive behaviour of 3-month-old dwarf hamsters (a topic that your mother and I unfortunately have too much information on).

Over the weekend, the greatest accomplishment I have achieved with you was making you write the X in your name. Your mother is much better at this; her greatest accomplishment the same weekend was getting you to go to Settings and recognise the word General on an iPad. She’s still trying to figure out how to make you recognise Brightness and Wallpaper.

Let’s put this in perspective; you’re 3 years old, and born on the tail end of December too, for crying out loud. My worry is not so much that you may not be able to keep up with the Singapore education system, but that the Singapore education system is not structured to your benefit.

Being born in November myself, your father can understand your predicament. I was a late bloomer; I completed my tertiary education at the tender age of 27, when everyone else in my class got their diplomas at age 19-20. My primary/secondary/pre-university education was absolutely nothing to brag about, save for my ability to scale a 3-metre barb-wired school fence to avoid the discipline master when I was late for school. By the time I was 15 years old, your grandparents had given up hope on me, at one point sitting me down in a serious discussion about me just focusing on a career in cooking Indonesian food, since I was enjoying eating so much I was getting fat enough to wear a bra.

It would be hypocritical for your mother and I to say we don’t expect anything from you; if we held no expectations, we wouldn’t have bought the 5 canes strewn all over our house with 1 tucked under the sun visor of our family car for emergencies. What I have learnt from dealing with my own father, though, is to think back on my own history as a toddler/child/teenager/adult son, and quite frankly decide not to ask too much of my own children.

Admittedly at some point this year or next, you will need to learn and demonstrate writing out your name in full (English and Chinese). But for now, I’m just going to wait for the next parent-teacher conference at your school and ask what exactly your teacher is expecting out of a 3-year-old born in late December, because as far as your mother and I are concerned, you’ve been able to fulfill most of our expectations. You eat your vegetables, are polite to strangers, manage to pee standing into the toilet bowl most of the time (I have explained to your mother and she has understood that sometimes just after you wake up in the morning this is not physically possible), and above all that, you’ve given us your laughter, your funny quips and, well, you.

All we ever wanted from you, you’ve already given us. You’ve given your mother and I happiness; what more can we ask for?

Love, Dad